Running a restaurant can be difficult enough; from dealing with suppliers to organizing menus, satisfying customers and managing employees, it's a wonder that anybody gets a moment to breathe. When you add in online marketing the complexity reaches another level. Luckily, despite the shroud of mystery hovering around it, SEO for local businesses is not difficult to understand and the returns on investment (monetary or effort-wise) can be fantastic. Let's dive in with this Search Engine People guide to SEO for restaurants...
Because doing SEO for location-based businesses requires a basic knowledge of SEO, if phrases like 'link-building' and 'title tag' leave you bewildered you should first read through this Search Engine People guide to SEO for Beginners to get up to speed. Once you've got that under your belt, we can go through the factors that will give you the most immediate 'bang for your buck'. For the rest of this guide we'll use a fictional Italian takeaway restaurant located in East York, Toronto named Aria to help explain each point.
Defining Your Keywords
Search engines reward websites that provide relevant, high-quality information to searchers, so everything you do regarding your website should be based on providing quality information to your visitors. Put yourself in your customer's shoes. What do they want? They want to find a great restaurant in their local area that provides good service and tasty food. What will they type into a search engine when they get hungry? This depends on whether they know about your restaurant or not. Let's assume that they've never heard of Aria. A common search term might look like this:
Italian restaurant east york
Here is the results page that Google returns for that search term: http://bit.ly/14aEACP. We can see other restaurants and services competing for the same search term which will help us build a collection of keywords to target. Another way to quickly gather relevant keywords is to use Google's Keyword Tool and filter through them for the most relevant ones. Let's focus on the following keywords: Italian, restaurant, takeaway, home delivery, east York, Aria
The title tag is the first thing that users see in the SERP, and is one of the top 3 most important on-page SEO elements (alongside meta-description and page content). A title tag has to be kept under 70-characters (use a tool like this to count the characters quickly). The best format for a title tag is:
Main Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
Let's adapt that for Aria:
Italian Takeaway Restaurant - East York - Aria Home Delivery
The meta-description is all about summarizing what makes your restaurant unique in a succinct paragraph around 155 - 160 characters in length. Although it's important to keep the paragraph relevant, in no way is it recommended to stuff it full of keywords - the primary purpose is to provide a nice description that will hopefully attract customers to click through to your page. Here is an example meta-description for Aria:
Welcome to Aria Italian restaurant in East York. We offer a wide range of delicious Italian cuisine, including pasta and pizza for eat-in and home delivery.
Making The Most Of Images With Alt-tags
Presentation can mean the difference between a loyal customer and a missed sale for a restaurant, and this applies both at the bricks-and-mortar location and online. Take full advantage of the online medium by displaying large, full-color images of the food that you offer; search engine traffic from image search is not insignificant, but to make sure that your restaurant gets the exposure it deserves, add alt-tags to each and every image. Sometimes you can do this directly using HTML, while other CMS systems like WordPress may provide a way for you to add them automatically.
Now we're really starting to get into the good stuff! Rich snippets are a type of mark-up that you can add to your restaurant web page to provide additional data that can be displayed in the SERP. An example of a rich snippet might be a map marker and contact details, a profile photo of the head chef or even a list of opening hours. A list of rich snippets available for restaurants can be found here at Schema.
Google Plus Local Listings
If you haven't visited Google Plus (the search engine giant's social network), now is the time. Making the most of Google Plus for local businesses including restaurants is an entire article in itself, but as a first step you should sign up and create a local page for your restaurant. From this local page you can share blog posts, videos, photos, links and even vouchers with your customers. One of the biggest benefits that a Google Plus Local listing offers is that they are integrated with Zagat ratings, and if a customer really likes your restaurant and posts a review, the review will be shared across their Google Plus network.
The final piece of the puzzle in this guide is to build an online presence using restaurant directories and review sites. By adding your restaurant to sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon, not only can you make sure that relevant information is posted on your profile - you can also take advantage of the authority that these sites have built up in the search engine rankings. Most restaurant review platforms will allow you to create a link back to your actual restaurant site, and even if the link is no-follow it still lends credibility to your restaurant site. Here is a great list of citation sources for Canadian businesses.
In this guide we've gained a solid understanding of the main pillars of SEO for restaurants. While the knowledge shared in this article can lead to some impressive immediate results, it's important to remember that SEO and online marketing is a deep subject with many layers, so keep checking back in with Search Engine People to learn more!